Sunday, November 29, 2009


In search of some Christmas culture we have spent this weekend "Up North" in Zurich where we were pleased to visit the art of the Neo Impressionist painter Geroges Seurat. He currently has an exhibition at the Zurich Kunsthaus

Only 2 hours from Lausanne to Zurich, how come we never did this before?

Gates to the Zurich Kunsthaus

The formal Website for the Seurat collection is here

Although Seurat died in 1891 at the tender age of 31 he left us with some classic artwork. Some favourites from the day:

Georges Seurat: Le chat blanc

Georges Seurat: Sunday afternoon

Georges Seurat: The rocky peak of le bec du hoc at Grandcamp, Normandy

Jackie, Andrew and Marcus in post Seurat discussion

Zurich unlike Lausanne is rather flat as evidenced by the plethora of bicycles and racks in and out of town
So to ease our mountain withdrawal syndrome we journeyed to Zurich's summit: Uetliberg. We climbed the look out tower for a better view. Here is Hotel Uto Kulm

Zurich night view

The 2009 Swarovski Christmas tree in the Christmas Market

Tree is adorned with Swarovski crystals

Marcus and Agata prepare to Run from the Bruno Weber sculpture in Dietikon back to Zurich main station

We ran back along the picturesque Limmat river path

A top weekend, many thanks to Jackie and Andrew for their hospitality.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Let's talk about sext

Come one, we have regular old fashioned (non 3GS) iPhones. There is no possibility that inappropriate videos of our old tired and flabby bodies will be circulating on the net anytime soon (Click the picture to learn more)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Black Friday Anyone?

I was always taught that black Friday was something to do with a disastrous fall in any Global Stock market. So that in fact it might not happen on a Friday, and that the original event was the 1869 manipulation of the gold market on the New York Stock Exchange.

But in a bizarre redefinition Black Friday is now at least in the USA is a retail shopping extravaganza set to the first Friday after US Thanksgiving (e.g. Friday November 27th 2009). On this day (US) retailers are supposed to entice shoppers into their stores with loss leaders and special never to be repeated offers.

Back here in Europe, well we don't celebrate Thanksgiving but a cheap shopping Friday would always be welcome. So I am pinning my hopes on Apple Computer to repeat their global Black Friday shopping initiative for 2009 and give all a bargain (well by Apple standards anyway).

Monday, November 23, 2009

The end of the World

It has been a greatly apocalyptic week for me. Everywhere I have turned has been painting a rather gloomy future for me, and the planet in general

Food Inc taught me about the evils of the American processed food industry. I wonder how safe we are here in beautiful Switzerland?

The movie 2012 tried to tell me that my long term pension and savings plans might not be well placed should the world come to a sticky end in just 3 years time.

Deadset is a Channel 4 series that described the lives of a BigBrother household and technicians who survived a zombie like worldwide virus which first kills the victim, then brings them back from the dead as a flesh craving, well zombie.

Finally I managed to enjoy the little things by watching Zombieland. Again the world is suddenly and unexpectedly decimated, not by climate change; but by the transformation of the worlds population into flesh eating monsters.

But let us be clear, it was the above earth shattering screen that has convinced me that Armageddon could surely be approaching. My BBC Radio 4 stream remains down

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Friday, November 20, 2009

I only need one

I cannot help but feel that this provocative display of Audi R8 just in front of the new Porsche garage is aimed directly at my Psyche. Santa surely knows that I deserve a single R8 for Christmas (3 would be greedy n'est pas?)

At current exchange rates however, the Swiss price is about 50% higher (yes I mean take the English price in GBP, add a stunning 50% and convert to Swiss Francs). I do not suppose that English R8 are being sold at a loss, and considering Swiss VAT of 7.6% is lower than English VAT, somebody here is taking the piss making a really large profit.

So unless Santa bravely steps in and reduces these shocking prices to a UK equivalent I afraid none of their beautiful cars will be adorning our garage space at home anytime soon.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

HP Envy 15 lands

After indeed about 4 years of waiting then I have a new laptop. The HP Envy 15. In brief

  • Intel i7 quad core processor
  • 6GB memory (3x2GB)
  • 1920x1080 native LED backlit screen
  • Reasonably beautiful ergonomics
  • 500GB Hard disk
  • External DVD drive and Battery slice included free
And a few negatives
  • Annoyingly styled keyboard a la Apple Macbook / Sinclair Spectrum)
  • Trackpad is buttonless a la Mac, however operation is far from smooth (too much pressure required to activate a button click)
  • Not quite as beautiful as the pictures suggested
  • "Only" Windows 7 Home premium pre-installed
  • A consumer and not business grade laptop
  • No docking station connector
  • Currently the fan goes into overdrive mode at times. I've yet to discover what CPU intensive background task is provoking this behaviour
  • Powerbrick the size of a house (and 135 Watts!!)

Differing markets ship identical looking but differing specification Envy 15 laptops. Check for processor speed (1.6GHz or faster), screen resolution (1920x1080 or something cheaper), memory (3x2GB SODIMMs or perhaps 2x4GB).


  • 6 seconds for BIOS screen to pass, +36 seconds to logon prompt, +19 seconds to usable
In a nutshell I'm very pleased with the laptop. It is extremely fast and responsive and both Windows 7 and a basic Linux like OS are preinstalled. Upon power on you can go into the Linux shell and surf or play music, or boot the Windows OS. Personally I'd always use Windows and keep the laptop in a sleep state (resume in less than 5 seconds.


Since a single 4GB SODIMM costs about 220GBP right now I would suggest increasing the memory from 6GB to 8GB using a 30GBP 2GB SODIMM. When 4GB prices drop substantially then consider buying 4xGB SODIMMs.

eSATA key.
With the eSATA disk port I can now make use of my 32GB key which has both a USB2 and eSATA interfaces. This provides a sustained 35MB/second write rate via the HP's eSATA port. Using Syncback I use this key to daily synchronise changes to my 15GB datastore between work and home. The process just got a lot faster.

Windows 7 Services: Blackviper has a good chart.

Usual mandatory software load included
Adobe Adobe Reader
InfranView Picture Viewer
iTunes and Quicktime
vLC media player
Notepad ++
Total Commander
Microsoft Office 2007

Installation Tips
To have the function keys behave as such e.g F11 when pressed is function key 11 not mute sound you need to go into BIOS (F2 at boot) and say that function keys are priority and special functions via the Fn meta key.

Migration from old laptop

I migrated all my Outlook settings from my old (Vista) laptop using the standard Microsoft migwiz program

Upgrade Woes
I incorrectly upgraded from Microsoft 7 Home premium to Windows 7 ultimate before activating Home premium. Then when it came to activating Ultimate it just did not work. A phone call to Microsoft gave me a numerical key install (not Alphas) and this fixed the problem. So before upgrading please activate the existing version.

Trackpad too clever for me:

Switching off the powerful yet ultimately confusing mouse gestures has the trackpad under control again. Over time you can re-enable features and make your life more productive but also more complex.

Nov23rd update: I worked around the too hard to press trackpad problem! Configure the bottom right trackpad corner to give button2 when you touch that corner. So obvious, after the event. Now button1 is a touch of the trackpad anywhere except in bottom right where it is button2. Therefore I have no need to physically press down the trackpad for mouse clicking. Marvellous.

You cant backup your system to a network drive using Windows 7 Home premium, you need 7 ultimate for that.

Docking Station?
Again I suppose in homage to the Apple Macbook the Envy laptop has only a SD card slot and no Docking station connector. Although the DVD drive has an additional 2xUSB2 ports I need more. So I've ordered a Dlink 7 Port USB2 Hub
into which I propose will be connected:
DVD drive
Readyboost USB key
Apple ipod cable
Serial to USB cable (for the Psion!)
2nd Serial to USB cable (for the Vintage UNIX system)
This means that "docking" the laptop will involve plugging in 1, Gigabit Ethernet and 1 USB hub cable. Just slightly more inconvenient than the older HP Dock, and actually rather more space efficient.

The Envy 15 is a great laptop with immense processor speed, super high resolution screen and large memory capacity. Its shortcoming to me are minor and are the trackpad and the bulkiness of the powerbrick. It is a recommended purchase, just be careful to get the high resolution screen model. If you are prepared to wait a few months more HP will no doubt launch a range of business i7 powered notebooks.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Common Carbon Sense

As someone who has reduced their driving to practically zero (I run or cycle everywhere) for reasons including lowering Carbon consumption I would like to emphasis some carbon statistics

Plane: 150 grams per Kilometre

Aston Martin DB9 2010 Coupe : 345 grams per Kilometre

Honda S2000 2.0i GT: 236 grams per Kilometre

Toyota Prius 1.8 VVT Hybrid 92 grams per Kilometre

Volkswagen Golf 2.0 DSG GTi 173 grams per Kilometre

So what have we learnt? In straight Carbon terms Air travel is often more economical than driving even a modest car the necessarily longer distance for any given journey.

Therefore, the argument is not whether to drive instead of fly. The argument is to reduce your total consumption whether by personal car, shared bus or rail, or plane.

(And of course the elephant in the room is: more footprints == more carbon)

Some links ..

Flight Carbon calculator

UK Car emissions data

CO2 emissions (metric tons per capita) - 2005

COP15 Climate Change Conference Copenhagen

Global Population

Sunday, November 15, 2009

On the Bus

In London; most thoughtful people might be somewhat frustrated by the monopoly of the Christian church on religious advertising. I would comment that the situation is pretty mild as compared to the multiple Christian BPM (Billboards per Mile) that you might experience in many American states.

But after Ariane Sherine's divine inspiration Atheists and other faiths are trying to restore the balance. Here is what I have seen so far:




American billboard





Sounds like Volatire to me


Australia -)


(Same sex couples excluded presumably)

Westboro Baptish church

And the last 4, whilst not on buses or billboards were just irresistible:

Atheist cat part 1

Religious wars
Fundamentalist Faith

Atheist cat part 2